NEW YORK — First Lady Michelle Obama rocketed Laura Smalls’ name into the national news by wearing two dresses from the little-known designer during last week’s Democratic National Convention.
Having sold her collection to only three stores for the past year, Smalls is trying to get used to the overnight interest in her life. In a phone interview Monday, Smalls said she was groggy from working until 4 a.m. preparing for her first runway show tonight at the Andaz hotel. The designer said of the 90-person guest list, “There is more press coming because people are like, ‘Who is this person?’”
A graduate of Parsons The New School for Design, Smalls spent years designing outerwear for Amerex and raising three children before she ventured out on her own in 2009. She runs her label from the family’s East 60th Street apartment, with her only other full-time employee being her husband, Willis, who worked in finance at CBS and later as a restaurant consultant.
Smalls first introduced Michelle Obama to her designs via the First Lady’s former go-to stylist, Ikram Goldman. “Ikram is not handling Mrs. Obama’s clothes right now. Someone on staff in the White House is,” said Smalls, declining to provide further details. When “Inside Edition” came calling last week, she said, “I answered some questions. But I didn’t want to go on air because I don’t want to trade on the First Lady’s name.”
Two other women whose voices carry — opera singer Kathleen Battle and Valerie Simpson (of Ashford & Simpson) — are also showing off Smalls’ skills as clients. Those less familiar with her work will check out the 28-piece line, which wholesales between $195 and $425, tonight.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast